USA South West Portfolio
My first ever trip to the States was to be a real eye opener & after three weeks with over 5000 kilometers of driving through the states of Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Colorado & California I can really say that this was a trip I can recommend everyone & I hope that I too can make a repeat visit in the near future.
Arches National Park
Adjacent to the Colorado River just a few miles north of Moab in eastern Utah is the Arches National Park to be admired, home to over 2000 natural sandstone arches, the most famous of which is Delicate Arch which is used as Utah’s national emblem.
Bryce National Park
Bryce Canyon actually isn’t a canyon at all but a collection of massive natural amphitheaters lining the side of the Paunsaugunt Plateau. Bryce is renowned for its distinctive geological structures named hoodoos, formed by frost weathering & stream erosion of river & lake bed sedimentary rocks. My visit was a pretty cold one with snow & ice, no wonder with elevations between 8,000 to 9,000 feet (2,400 to 2,700 m).
Canyon de Chelly National Monument
Located in northeastern Arizona, Canyon de Chelly lies within the boundaries of the Navajo Nation & is located within the Four Corners region. Reflecting one of the longest continuously inhabited landscapes of North America, it preserves ruins of tribes that lived in the area, from the Ancestral Puebloans to the Navajo.
Canyonlands National Park
Also in the vicinity of Moab in Utah is the massive Canyonlands National Park. It preserves a colourful landscape eroded into countless canyons, mesas, & buttes by the Colorado & Green Rivers. I visited the Island In The Sky region & was overwhelmed by the natural beauty I had before me.
Death Valley National Park
I spent a couple of days in Death Valley & to be honest I could have spent weeks there as the park has so many natural, geological & climatic phenomena it is just amazing. On the western edge of the park are the Sierra Nevada mountains adding a visual & climatic change next to the arid hot plains near Owen Lake where I also encountered a sandstorm.
Goblin State Park
This park lies within the San Rafael Desert southeast of the San Rafael Swell & north of the Henry Mountains. The unusual phallic stone shapes found in Goblin Valley result from the weathering of Entrada sandstone that was deposited in the Jurassic period around 170 million years ago. Along with Bryce Canyon National Park, Goblin State Park has some of the highest occurrences of hoodoos in the world.
Grand Canyon National Park
Carved by the meandering Colorado River in Arizona the Grand Canyon is probably the most visited place in the USA & it is no wonder why as this giant hole in the floor that is some 277 miles (446 km) long, up to 18 miles (29 km) wide with a depth of over a mile (6,093 feet or 1,857 meters) is breathtaking. My short stay was highlighted with an awesome helicopter flight, an experience I shall never forget.
My experience of Hoover Dam during the day was one of very hot temperatures & by night an interrupted nap due to a visit by the police who didn’t find it amusing that I was sleeping in my car. I was also shouted at by security guards on patrol earlier in the evening for setting up my tripod near the dam. Very nervous area but understandable when you realize how important this structure is.
Near the city of Page in Arizona is this colossal bend in the Sandstone canyon of the Colorado River just a short distance downstream from Glen Canyon dam. I arrived here late in the evening, the sky lit up by the Milky way but I was just so exhausted that I fell asleep in the car until 5 o’clock the following morning. I made the short walk to the canyons edge a short time later & there it was, BAM! in my face, an unbelievable sight, just as the sun peered over the horizon revealing yet another natural wonder in technicolor. I was awake immediately.
Mesquite Flats Sanddunes, Death Valley
Almost completely surrounded by mountain ranges Mesquite sand Dunes is like a mini Sahara right in the middle of nothing. The name Mesquite derives from a hardy desert plant which used to cover much of the valley floor before the dunes developed. Today Creosote bushes are to be found more commonly in & between the dunes. Being easily accessible from the road, many scenes for Hollywood films have been filmed here including some from the Star Wars series.
Mono Lake a little east of Yosemite National Park is a lake with geological significance in the form of towers formed by Tufa which is actually common Limestone. Typically, underwater springs rich in calcium (the stuff in your bones) mix with lake water rich in carbonates (the stuff in baking soda). As the calcium comes into contact with carbonates in the lake, a chemical reaction occurs resulting in calcium carbonate–limestone. In any case a visit is highly recommended especially by sunset where the colours are gorgeous.
Monument Valley National Monument
I had up to this point of the trip seen so many natural wonders that I didn’t think I could be surprised so easily anymore until after a long drive non-stop from the Grand Canyon I arrived at Kayenta & caught my first glimpse of Monument Valley in the distance. It seemed so near but was actually still quite a distance away & the sun was descending rapidly. I had to put my foot down if I wanted that sunset & was very lucky not to have been a victim of the local Highway Patrol. I managed the sunset though, by the skin of my teeth.
I wasn’t prepared for this I must admit. At home I had researched a get deal of my trip over the Internet but hadn’t come across Route 66. As I passed the first signs after Yucca on the Nevada, Californian, Arizona borders, I couldn’t believe my luck. It was time to take a short detour from Highway 40 & get my kicks on Route 66 south of the Grand Canyon.
The Sierra Nevada’s run some 400 miles (640 km) north-to-south, & are approximately 70 miles (110 km) across east-to-west & lie on the western edge of Death Valley. The highest mountain, Mount Whitney is 14,505 ft (4,421 m) high. Yosemite, Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks are all within this region as are Mammoth Lakes, Mono Lake & Lake Tahoe.
Valley Of Fire State Park
Valley Of Fire, named after the Aztec Sandstone that glows an awesome flame orange/red in the evening sun is a public recreation & natural preservation area a short car drive north of Las Vegas on Highway 15. The park is often venue to weddings & photo shootings with stretch limousines & sports cars. Many scenes from Total Recall with Arnold Schwarzenegger were almost completely filmed here too.
Zion National Park
A 6 mile (9,6 km) drive through the Navajo sandstone canyon alongside the green coloured Virgin River ends in a cul-de-sac at the Temple of Sinawava.
Located in southwestern Utah near Springdale, Zion was established in 1919 as a National Park & has become a very popular destination attracting visitors from all over the world to drive through a canyon alongside a river with many picturesque vantage points. My visit was short as I was on the way back to Vegas but I just couldn’t resist taking a short tour to see what I might have missed & was impressed with what I saw but it was an extremely hot day with 40°C at the northern end of the valley.